I am your sandbag of love
I have learned never to give up on a manga after the first volume. Far too often, the first volume serves as a sort of “pilot” for the series, doing little more than introducing the characters and themes but it isn’t until the second volume that the story actually begins.
That is exactly how it is with “Portrait of M & N Volume Two.” Although I enjoyed the bizarreness of volume one, with the twisted take on a masochist in love with a narcissist, I didn’t see how the story could be sustained over the six-volume series. It seemed like the shock-value would soon fade away and that there wasn’t enough here to carry the story. Fortunately, with volume two author Tachibana Higuchi (Gakuen Alice) decided to focus more on the characters and less on their specific perversions which makes for a much more interesting story.
By now, we have the required love triangle of Mitsuru (the beautiful masochist), Natsuhiko (the even more beautiful narcissist) and Hijiri (the “cool guy” embarrassed by his terror of dogs). Mitsuru and Natsuhiko know each other’s secrets, but only Hijiri and Mitsuru are aware of each other’s true nature. Hijiri has been blackmailing Mitsuru into blocking dogs from coming near him, but Natsuhiko is unaware of this and becomes jealous of their relationship.
Volume Two has two scenarios familiar to almost all high school romance comics. First off, Natsuhiko’s mother is concerned about her son’s lack of interest in girls (due to his obsessive narcissism), and so Natsuhiko decides to bring Mitsuru home in order to get his mother to let off on the pressure. Mitsuru sees this as a chance to ingratiate herself into Natsuhiko’s family, but somehow Hijiri swings an invitation as well, and is determined to drive a wedge between the two. Next, it is time for Sports Day at school, and the sport is dodgeball. This is a nightmare for Natsuhiko and Mitsuru, who fear having their secret natures shown to the entire school should a stray ball strike them in the wrong way. One smack in the face by a dodgeball would have Mitsuru groveling on the ground begging for someone to use her and abuse her, and the slightest damage to Natsuhiko’s perfect face is more than he would be able to deal with.
With volume two I am really hooked with “Portrait of M & N” and looking forward to seeing how the series plays out. Rarely have I seen a love story with such completely flawed characters, both of whom are absolutely consumed by their dual natures. Mitsuru seems like a perfect girlfriend, pretty, sweet and attentive but Natsuhiko has to live with the knowledge that she would debase herself and completely give herself over to be used by anyone who causes her pain. Mitsuru, on the other hand, is fully in love with Natsuhiko and even has marriage plans, but she must live with the fact that she will always be second-place to Natsuhiko’s own reflection, and that he would rather kiss himself in the mirror than kiss her.
Hijiri is the only character who seems out of place. His fear of dogs just isn’t on the same level as Mitsuru and Natsuhiko’s obsessions, and that makes him a bit boring. I realize that there needs to be someone standing between Mitsuru and Natsuhiko to create drama, but I wish his secret had been something more dramatic.
Like with volume one, this second volume of “Portrait of M&N” has a back-up story that takes up about one-forth of the comic. Also by author Higuchi, “Ghost Story under the Cherry Blossom” is another tale of twisted love, of the ghost of a murdered high school student who falls in love with the floating spirit of a boy in a coma. What will happen when the boy awakes from the coma? I felt this was a compelling little ghost story with an ending that seems happy but when you think about it is very dark and depressing.